The Dutchman is halfway to New York

Categories: Pop Culture
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The last time we talked to the Dutchman, a local vets advocate rolling across America to Manhattan in his wheelchair, he was camped-out on the lawn outside a Wal-Mart in Madison, Wisconsin. Two months later, he's in Ontario, Canada, making his way down the side of Highway 3. "I'm on my third chair," says Robert William Van Vranken II, speaking over his cell phone as trucks roar by in the background. "I went from Minneapolis to Menomonie, Wisconsin, on a manual chair, then burnt out the electric motor on a power chair. But I have over 600 miles on this chair."

Rolling along non-interstate highways between Minnesota and New York with a bike trailer behind him, the Dutchman has made pretty good time (50 miles a day), while raising money for a new Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder Center at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, via his website, www.myspace.com/dutchmanrolling. (Instead of kicking him off their lawn, Wal-Mart made a donation.) His secret is to not push the electric motor. "I go an hour, then I gotta stop for about 25 minutes and let it cool down," he says.

The Dutchman has faced worse dangers than a burnt-out motor: While changing wires on his batteries in a bike path between Madison and Milwaukee, a snake got its teeth in him. "He bit my stump," says Vranken, who lost his lower left leg in a bus accident last year (had had been drinking, and fell under the vehicle). The swelling on the stump has gone down, so he doesn't think the snake was poisonous.

"Life goes on," he says. "My new hairspray is insect repellent."

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